Running, Part 2: Run Faster Not Harder

Orthopedic Injuries, Running

When it comes to preventing running injuries, the quality of your technique is just as important as proper basic mobility. Over the past several years foot strike patterns have become a hot topic in the running world. Heel striking has become synonymous with injury, but no evidence has ever clearly backed up that theory. There is no one strike pattern that is more predicative of an injury than another. Most elite runners alter their strike patterns at different points during their run. That variability is beneficial to preventing the injury.

One of the biggest predictors of injury is over striding. This is when the foot hits the ground out in front of the body. Over striding increases stress on the leg and makes it harder to control the leg. Try squatting on one leg with your foot out in front of you. It’s almost impossible. Now bring the leg back underneath you and squat and feel the difference. Oftentimes when over striding is corrected all other running technique problems are corrected as well.

The easiest way to correct over striding is to run faster. Increasing step rate 5-10% often stops over striding. When you run faster there is decrease in the amount of time the foot is in contact with the ground, a decrease in loading rate on the joint, and decrease of stress on the joints.  Many will argue that it will be “too hard “to run faster, but research shows a 10% increase in step rate causes no increase in oxygen consumption or heart rate.  It is believed that increasing step rate increases running efficiency.

To manipulate your step rate, first run at your usual pace and count your foot contacts for one minute. Then increase that rate by 5-10%. It sometimes helps to run with a metronome to maintain that increased pace. As you do this listen to the sounds of your feet, it should be softer as the stress on your joints lessens.

Proper running technique, along with the movement requirements discussed in Part 1: Move Right to Run Right, may help a runner of any experience level avoid injuries.